When Nespresso and capsule coffee machines flooded the market, many die-hard coffee connoisseurs turned their noses up. Yes, these fancy devices were compact and – most importantly – convenient, but avid coffee drinkers felt they could never truly deliver when it came to taste and quality. The biggest disadvantage was being unable to pick the coffee beans and grounds.
Enter the bean-to-cup coffee machine.
Its arrival has been a real game changer and it’s not hard to see why. They’re cheaper than capsule coffee machines and easier to maintain than traditional coffee machines. The big plus, of course, is that you can choose your own beans and they are always freshly ground.
But do bean-to-cup coffee machines live up to the hype? What are their pros and cons? Are they really as good as others make them out to be? To answer all of the above, we’re zooming in on three focus areas and breaking down some myths and misconceptions so you can make an informed decision about which type of coffee machine is best for your needs.
Many think that bean-to-cup coffee machines sometimes produce coffee that is not consistent in quality. This is not true, provided the machine is properly maintained (more on this later) and you know how to use it.
It’s important to understand the importance of the water volume, grinder settings, coffee quantity and extraction time. Once you’ve got that down, you’re pretty much set for fine coffee all day, every day.
But these principles also apply to a traditional coffee machine. Unless you have been trained how to use it and have the right skills, you’ll struggle to consistently produce good coffee.
The general belief is that everyone who uses a bean-to-cup machine needs to undergo some sort of training. That’s not necessarily true, though – the learning curve is less steep than with a traditional coffee machine, which requires a significant amount of practice to be able to consistently produce good coffee.
With a bean-to-cup machine, it’s fairly easy for someone who is proficient to teach others with no experience how to use it. In an office, that might mean you send one or two people off for training, and they can then train their colleagues up pretty quickly.
Think bean-to-cup machines are automated, so that means they’re easy to clean and maintain? Think again. Contrary to popular belief, bean-to-cup machines have many small parts that need to be looked after.
For example, the milk system in the machine needs to be cleaned every single day, as does the part of the machine that grinds, tamps and filters the coffee. As there are many different parts, this can be a little fiddly and time-consuming.
This contrasts with a traditional coffee machine, which is much more simple to clean; you can flush it out with a cleaning fluid and then clean the tray and portafilter easily enough.